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On Talking With Veterinarians About Vegan Food

We have a request, and it's an issue I've written about a handful of times but never had this particular question answered by readers: How do you talk with your vet–who is against feeding your dog vegan food–about your choice to do so? What do you say?

I'm fortunate to have a regular (non-specialist) vet who has no problem at all with a vegan diet for dogs. I've never discussed that Emily the kitty eats one meal of Ami vegan kibble on most days (and one of canned, animal-based food). She is doing fine with that. No change in anything about her, though I do think she's a bit perkier.

Violet the diabetic greyhound does very well as a vegan as her recent blood work demonstrated. Charles the lame greyhound doesn't process grains well at all. He never has. He fares best (as evidenced by poop, energy, licking, scratching, and severity of limping) on food with no grains whatsoever and very high animal protein–almost carnivore level.

Home cooking for Violet was difficult because her carb/protein/fat ratios need to be consistent in order for her blood sugar to be predictable. I had to make exactly the same meal for her every day, so I moved to using Natural Balance Vegetarian kibble (note that the canned version is not vegan due to the animal source of Vitamin D3). I did try other vegan dog foods, but I like the ingredients in Natural Balance best. There are plenty of vegan treats on the market, but my hounds prefer bananas, strawberries, blueberries or broccoli.

Because Violet and Charles are chock full of medical issues, they have a handful of specialists. There's the acupuncturist/chiropractor, opthamologist, orthopedist, neurologist, physical therapist and the trainer. None of those approve of a vegan diet and all it took was one conversation, and me hearing that "they have to eat meat" from people who believe people "have to eat meat" to know that the issue wasn't ever going to be resolved.

My regular vet is a curious guy who doesn't think he knows everything and when something happens that he hasn't encountered (e.g., Charles had a corn on his pad), he's happy for me to bring him some research and for us to tackle the issue together (we did this with the corn and removed it together–and no charge, by the way). If he didn't know about feeding dogs vegan food, I might have brought him some of these articles and I would have referred him to Vegan Dogs: Compassionate Nutrition or to

I'd question whether the vet needs to know what my dogs are eating or is in a position to judge as long as they are healthy. I recently told my osteopath that I'm a vegan and got all kinds of grief. Then she saw my fantastic blood work and vitals and didn't say another word.

Meanwhile, my husband, who has been vegan for less than 2 years (straight from omni), takes supplements sporadically, and had very low B12. I take fewer supplements and my B12 was high. The message here, like the message with the dogs, is that everyone is different and we don't respond uniformly to the same food or supplements. The ideal scenario is to establish a baseline, whether it's your blood work or your dog's, or other observables such as behavior, scratching, poop, breath, energy level, and then make the change (supplements, food, whatever) and retest in three months and six months to see the direction and progress. For all we know, my husband was B12 deficient as an omnivore. His levels are fine now, but if we didn't check them (and those of the creatures), we wouldn't have figured all of this out.

Back to the questions: Do you arm yourself with research and go to the vet to educate him/her? Do you not say anything at all or lie when they ask you what the animal eats? (My vet asks every time I go.) Do you politely say that you've done the research and are convinced that a vegan diet is perfectly appropriate for most dogs and has the added bonus of not putting you in a position where you're supporting the needless slaughter of other animals?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. When we were researching switching Lucy the Wonder Pit to a vegan diet, we printed off the ingredients and nutritional info for Natural Balance kibble and showed it to our vet. He was bemused, but decided there was nothing wrong with giving it a try. (Basically, I wanted him to okay the amount of protein since Lucy is very high-energy.) She's done beautifully on it. We're fortunate to have pretty chill vets, and I've helped our trainer learn more about vegan cat and dog diets as well. (VegNews had a great article a year or two ago.)

    January 20, 2010
  2. It's never been an issue for me. I've never had a vet tell me not to feed my dogs vegan food. And I've had more than one vet tell me it was fine.

    In general, I think the best way to deal with this stuff is to get educated. I recommend: The Little Vegan Dog Book.

    January 20, 2010
  3. I am such a non-confrontational wuss. I tell our vet(s) that the dogs are on a vegetarian (soon-to-be-vegan) diet without actually saying the "v" word: "Well, they eat Nature's Recipe Healthy Skin & Coat formula, and I supplement with home-cooked meals and raw veggies." Luckily, diet's only been an issue once, when our first-adopted dog developed skin allergies 8+ years ago. At the time, our then-vet actually recommended the vegetarian stuff as part of a food elimination diet (turned out he was allergic to environmental allergens).

    If it was a point of contention, probably I'd come to appointments armed with reams of print-outs, and bury the vet into submission. Like you, I don't have many options, vet-wise; I live in a rural area, and the closest vet is already a 30-minute drive as it is. Nice guy, but you can tell that he thinks we're…odd.

    And the acupuncturist, really? Bah.

    January 20, 2010
  4. Dan #

    I tell all vets (and doctors) that the dogs (and Sue and I) are vegan. All have thought that was fine and are impressed with the health of (both) our dogs (and us). If any vet, doctor, specialist, etc, told me that any of us shouldn't be vegan, I simply say, gently but firmly, "That's not going to happen", and the discussion would end there. If they wanted to keep me as a client (or patient), they'd have to educate themselves and find a way around it.

    January 22, 2010
  5. Great topic!

    I have mentioned it, but only when asked. It's never been an issue and if it was, I would be quite assertive about it. However, I have a very long relationship with my vet (been going there for almost 17 years) and they know that I educate myself about their health. If someone has a vet that's giving them a hard time, I would first recommend to try to find another vet. To me, vets are like doctors. Most have had a very small amount or no amount of schooling in nutrition and a lot of the information they get is straight from companies that make dog food. If your vet gives you a hard time and there isn't another one you can go to, then bring them the articles Mary mentioned and be very assertive with them that you feel that this is the best, healthiest diet for them. 🙂

    January 23, 2010
  6. This hasn't been an issue for me, partly because when I became a vegetarian 45 years ago my family doctor told me that if I didn't eat meat I'd die. Most vets, like doctors, don't know that much about nutrition, so they simply endorse whatever some industry certification program has approved. I was lucky to talk to Larry Siegler, a naturopathic vet near Seattle right after I adopted my dog. He looked alarmed when I told him that my dog was on a vegan diet of vegan canned & kibble food. He had no problem with my dog being vegan but proceeded to tell me that dogs have a very sensitive sense of smell, so it's likely that they have a similarly sensitive sense of taste, so he said my dog should have a wide variety of whatever foods I ate (provided it wasn't too oily, or salty, or poisonous for dogs). After my dog's vegan canned food was recalled for Chinese melamine, I started making her wet food from yams, potatoes, veggies, rice and lots of other things she already ate. She loves the food. She has been vegan 10 of her 13 years, is bright, alert, and active. Her coat, sight and hearing are all great. She is frequently mistaken for a puppy.

    January 24, 2010
  7. Hi Dan,

    I like your gesture for you being a vegan. If they are a problem solver then they need to educate themselves and find a way around it. Correct?

    – Mathew J.

    February 7, 2010
  8. Exactly, Mathew.

    February 7, 2010
  9. Glenn L. #

    Interesting topic,

    I am curious about the lack of reference to whether a veterinarian is vegan or not. It seems somewhat contradictory for a professional devoted to the health and well being of animals to engage in eating them, doesn't it?

    Glenn L.

    May 14, 2010
  10. Linda #

    I would love for vets to truly be on the animals side by choosing to not eat them . My vet didn't have vegan dogfood and didnt offer to order any for me…I'm disappointed and would drive a little further if I knew of a vet who is a true advocate for All Animals

    March 30, 2011

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